1 Corinthians 3:16-17 “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
I approach this topic with much trepidation. The devastation that occurs with those that are left behind after a suicide can last for years, if not a lifetime. One of my first experiences coming to the Olympia area was being caught up in a traffic jam after a young man threw himself from a local bridge into oncoming traffic. When I heard what happened, my heart broke for that person and questions filled my mind.
What could have led him to the point were all seemed so hopeless? Who were the friends he had in his life and did they suspect he was this desperate? Could I have made a difference in his life if I knew him?
I prayed a simple prayer after that experience…”Lord, please give me the insight and opportunity to know if someone is sorrowful to the point of giving up on life. Help me to show them how valuable they are and give them perspective beyond this short period in their life that seems so hopeless”.
Psalm 147:3 “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.“
One is too many
The numbers of those that take their lives is staggering to consider. According to the World Health Organization, more than 700,000 people die by suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Suicide is a global phenomenon and occurs throughout the lifespan.
In the United States in 2020, according to U.S. facts and figures, on average 132 americans died by suicide each day, with 1.4 million attempting suicide. Men died by suicide 3.6x more often than women. Women were 1.4x more likely to attempt suicide. According to the CDC, inn 2019, 12 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.4 million attempted suicide.
Suicide rates vary by race/ethnicity, age, and other factors. The highest rates are among American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations. Other Americans with higher than average rates of suicide are veterans, people who live in rural areas, and workers in certain industries and occupations like mining and construction. Young people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual have a higher rate of suicidal ideation and behavior compared to their peers who identify as straight.
2 Corinthians 7:10 “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
Suicide and suicide attempts affect the health and well-being of friends, loved ones, co-workers, and the community. When people die by suicide, their surviving family and friends may experience shock, anger, guilt, symptoms of depression or anxiety, and may even experience thoughts of suicide themselves.
The financial toll of suicide on society is also costly. Suicides and suicide attempts cost the nation over $70 billion per year in lifetime medical and work-loss costs alone.
John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
There are many things to look for when someone is growing desperate and looking for help. Listening and taking the warning signs seriously can give you the opportunity to impact someone in such a way that saves their life.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are certain things to look for:
- Talking about suicide — for example, making statements such as “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Getting the means to take your own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills.
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone.
- Having mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next.
- Being preoccupied with death, dying or violence.
- Feeling trapped or hopeless about a situation.
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs.
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns.
- Doing risky or self-destructive things, such as using drugs or driving recklessly.
- Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there’s no other logical explanation for doing this.
- Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.
- Developing personality changes or being severely anxious or agitated, particularly when experiencing some of the warning signs listed above.
Isaiah 41:10 “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
There are many behaviors and expressions of disconnect that people exhibit when moving toward a “checking out” of society. Being keenly aware of someone’s depression or anxiety can help you raise the flag of alert and bring others who love them into the fold to help. This type of thinking doesn’t get better on it’s own, it tends to be a vicious spiral that grows darker and darker by the day.
When you see someone you know experiencing these symptoms, what can you do?
I believe the first step is understanding what led them to this point.
Suicidal thoughts have many causes. Most often, suicidal thoughts are the result of feeling like you can’t cope when you’re faced with what seems to be an overwhelming life situation. If you don’t have hope for the future, you may mistakenly think suicide is a solution. You may experience a sort of tunnel vision, where in the middle of a crisis you believe suicide is the only way out.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.”
There also may be a genetic link to suicide. People who complete suicide or who have suicidal thoughts or behavior are more likely to have a family history of suicide.
Not everyone feels capable of giving the necessary support someone might need in the midst of this crisis, having the right support and tools can give you the direction you need to help lead someone this person to healing and recovery.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one — even though it may be hard to talk about your feelings.
- Contact a minister, spiritual mentor or someone in your faith community and meet with them on a regular basis.
- Call a suicide hotline
- Make an appointment with your doctor, other health care provider or a mental health professional.
- In some cases, antidepressants can help bridge the gap until the necessary healing and growth can occur. In my readings and experiences, this measure should only be considered in critical situations that need immediate help. There is a danger in teenagers and young adults of having a rebound effect and an increase in suicidal thoughts might occur when taking these drugs.
1 Peter 5:7 “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
The cures are really just common sense approaches that give perspective to those where nothing makes sense. According to the Mayo clinic, some general suggests include encouragements such as:
Get the treatment you need. If you don’t treat the underlying cause, your suicidal thoughts are likely to return. You may feel embarrassed to seek treatment for mental health problems, but getting the right treatment for depression, substance misuse or another underlying problem will make you feel better about life — and help keep you safe.
Establish your support network. It may be hard to talk about suicidal feelings, and your friends and family may not fully understand why you feel the way you do. Reach out anyway, and make sure the people who care about you know what’s going on and are there when you need them. You may also want to get help from your place of worship, support groups or other community resources. Feeling connected and supported can help reduce suicide risk.
Remember, suicidal feelings are temporary. If you feel hopeless or that life’s not worth living anymore, remember that treatment can help you regain your perspective — and life will get better. Take one step at a time and don’t act impulsively.
2 Corinthians 4:8,9 “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;”
Did you know Jonah was suicidal?
Jonah 4:3 “Therefore now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Jonah didn’t want to preach to the Ninevites, he couldn’t stand that civilization and his bias toward that people undermined his ability to love or be obedient. The Lord then proceeded to give Jonah an object lesson.
vs. 4-11 Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”
So Jonah went out of the city and sat on the east side of the city. There he made himself a shelter and sat under it in the shade, till he might see what would become of the city. And the Lord God prepared a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be shade for his head to deliver him from his misery. So Jonah was very grateful for the plant. But as morning dawned the next day God prepared a worm, and it so damaged the plant that it withered. And it happened, when the sun arose, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”
Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”
And he said, “It is right for me to be angry, even to death!”
But the Lord said, “You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left—and much livestock?”
The lesson we can learn from Jonah is that gaining a godly perspective changes the view of our circumstances. Value and worth are solely under the charge of our Creator, we might not like the circumstances He places us in but there is purpose behind everything He does…and it is always good.
- Judas took his life after he realized the magnitude of his sin of betrayal against Jesus. Matthew 27:3-5
- Samson took his own life only after realizing he had taken God’s mandate of holiness and separation and cast it before the women he lusted after. Judges 16:25-30
- Elijah was suicidal when Jezebel sought to kill him. 1 Kings 19:1-21
- Abimelech had his armor bearer run him through with a sword. Judges 9:50-55
- Saul took his own sword and fell upon it during battle. 1 Samuel 31:3-5
- David despaired for his life on numerous occasions and yet he remembered God’s promises.
Psalm 30:8-12 “To you, O Lord, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me! O Lord, be my helper!” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”
A godly perspective completely changes the outlook on what would normally be regarded as hopeless. This is why discipleship is so important for the church. Discipleship is not a pastors duty only, it is the duty of every man and woman that has walked in truth and grown in their maturity of the gospel. We have a valuable tool, one the world has no knowledge of, it is the Word of God and our testimony. When we share with people what it means to walk in Christ, we give them a perspective that changes from hopelessness to joy in the Lord.
Isaiah 55:6-11 “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, ..”
The times of sorrow come to an end in due time. The darkness is illuminated by the Light of God’s promises and the journey that wasn’t meant to be taken alone, becomes one that is lead forth in peace. Jesus said He will never leave you or forsake you, it is this promise His people can testify of and say with surety that it is indeed true.
If you are sorrowful, draw near to those who love you and draw near to the Lord. If you see someone exhibiting symptoms of suicide, have the boldness to reach out and connect with them….they will thank you in the end.